Road Commission Explains Ann Arbor-Saline/Textile Road Roundabout to Lodi Residents

 01/17/2016 - 01:51

On Thursday night, dozens of Lodi residents came to Lodi Township Hall on Pleasant Lake Road for a Public Information Open House sponsored by the Washtenaw County Road Commission. Several employees of the road commission and engineering consultants from GHD and FTCH explained a new road project in the township.

Beginning shortly after Labor Day 2016, a new compact urban roundabout will be built to replace the existing intersection at Ann Arbor-Saline and Textile roads. In addition, Textile Road from the new intersection east to Maple Road will be resurfaced. The project should be completed before winter.

Many people came to the open house wanting to learn more about the plan. Some others came with their mind already made up.

The meeting was not to pitch the idea, nor to seek citizen input. It was to tell residents what is going to be done.

“The really scary thing for the citizens is this was all decided, predetermined by the road commission,” one Textile Road resident said. “It was not presented to the public.”

This citizen, who asked not to be named, also pointed out that the number of accidents greatly increased at State and Ellsworth in Ann Arbor after a roundabout was installed there. He admitted, however, that this was largely because many people did not understand how to use them.

The various experts at the open house told a different story. While acknowledging that the number of accidents may have increased at that one site, they said that accidents usually decrease after a roundabout is installed.

Perhaps more importantly, the accidents that happen in roundabouts are less severe. The road commission says there has never been a fatal accident in a roundabout in Washtenaw County.

The roundabout to be built at the Saline-Ann Arbor and Textile intersection is a relatively new design, smaller than the one at State and Textile. Only two of these have so far been built in Washtenaw County, at the intersections of Textile and Stony Creek and Textile and Hitchingham in Ypsilanti.

Mark Lenters, a roundabout designer from GHD, said that this installation reduced long queues at these intersections.

“People have told us they are quite pleased,” Lenters said.

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Curt Brochue (center back) of the County Road Commission discusses the model layout of the intersection with visitors and fellow experts.

Contrary to what one might suppose, these compact urban roundabouts have a smaller footprint than an intersection with traffic signals. This is in part because signaled intersections require the addition of left-turn lanes.

Reduced size is important for the installation at Textile and Ann Arbor-Saline because of the proximity of Lodi Cemetery.

Of course the small circle in a compact roundabout makes the turns too tight for large trucks to navigate. To deal with this, the center island as well as splitter islands on the approaches to the intersection have “mountable curbs.”

Mountable curbs allow large trucks to drive over the islands. Car drivers must be aware that such vehicles require a larger turning radius and yield accordingly.

Sheryl Siddall, managing engineer for the Road Commission, said that the compact urban roundabout is “just another tool in the toolbox.” She said that they consider both geographical factors (such as the space available) and operational factors (such as traffic flow) to decide on the best option.

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Kisten Pawlowski of the consulting company FTCH, displays the detour plan to be used during construction.

In addition to the roundabout, the Road Commission will reconstruct Textile Road between Ann Arbor Saline and Maple roads. This will involve the relatively new method of pulverizing the old payment and then recompacting it in place to build the base for the new surface. It will be topped with two courses of fresh asphalt to a final thickness of four inches.

The new method is another way to reduce costs. Although the Road Commission does not have extensive experience with this method, they have been reusing asphalt for years.

Siddall said that the township had expressed concern years ago about backups at the intersection during peak times and about the pavement on Textile. However the decision to do this particular project came from the Road Commission, based on “our professional judgment.”

The entire project is expected to cost about $1.1 million. This expense will have no direct impact on Lodi residents, Siddall said.

Payment will be split 80/20 between the federal government and the Road Commission.

During the construction, traffic will be routed around the intersection either to the east or west. Most traffic will use the eastern detour, employing Ann Arbor Saline Road, Maple Road and Woodland Drive. The western route is more convoluted and includes gravel roads.

More information on roundabouts can be found at the website: Roundabout Resources.

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This diagram provides  an overview of  the compact urban roundabout construction plan.

Accidents that do occur at roundabouts are often due to a lack of driver education. For this reason the Road Commission has published a set of driving tips for compact roundabouts.

  1. Yield to traffic circulating inside the roundabout – they have the right of way.
  2. Drive counter-clockwise through the roundabout.
  3. Keep moving while you are in the roundabout, and don’t block emergency vehicles.
  4. When exiting the roundabout, signal a right-turn just before you exit. This way drivers waiting to enter the roundabout know you’re exiting.
  5. Bicyclists may travel the roundabout in the same way as a motor vehicle.
  6. For the Textile Road roundabout, larger vehicles such as tractors/trailers and farm equipment may be required to traverse over the central island to complete their maneuver.
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.